readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Saturday at Books of Wonder in NYC... The Pajants!

Had to let you guys know that there's going to be this amazing Pajants reading at Books of Wonder on Saturday, December 3rd, from 3-5 PM. Seriously, this lineup rules. Come if you can!

The pajants, as you may have heard, have been worn all over the world... and even on the famous legs of one Ms. Tyra Banks (who signed right between me and E. Lockhart--exciting!):

Remember my Pajants adventures? Oh, the places they've gone! Remember my Tyra adventures? Full circle, people.

Check out the full Pajants saga on Facebook

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cover Stories: Swear by Nina Malkin

Back in 2009, Nina Malkin talked to me about the gorgeous cover for Swoon, and now the sequel is here with another enticing cover image.

Here's Nina:

"Writing is intensely present for me. With SWEAR I was so in the moment of the action and emotion as it unfurled, no way was I thinking about the cover. I was lucky if I thought about lunch. Besides, it’s such a privilege to be able to publish, I trust the pros at Simon & Schuster to do what they think is best for a book, and that includes the cover. After all, once you deliver a novel it’s no longer this magical collaboration between your conscious and your subconscious—it’s a product.

"Of course, I didn’t always have such a laissez-faire attitude. My first novel, 6X: The Uncensored Confessions, was about a band. Unbeknownst to me the publisher did an expensive photo shoot—too bad the girl on the cover looked more like a cheap hooker than rock chick (right). I threw some major hissy but got nowhere. And if I thought that cover sucked, the next one was worse. That’s when I realized the novels weren’t 'mine' anymore; I had to let them go..."

Read the rest of Nina's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

rgz Newsflash: Anne McCaffrey Passes

Thanks to Jane Yolen for the facebook note. My heart is so sad to know the collected body of work by Anne McCaffrey is now complete. We will treasure the volumes. Our love to her family. Here are the words of her passing from her son, Todd:

This is how Todd MCCaffrey told of his mother's death. A lovely farewell: At about 5 p.m. Monday November 21st, 2011, Anne McCaffrey passed away. Mum was getting ready to go back to the hospital because she was feeling "puny" and collapsed while she was moving into her wheelchair. Her daughter, Georgeanne Kennedy, and son-in-law, Geoffrey Kennedy were with her. She was in no pain and it was over in an instant. She first had a heart attack in late 2000 and a stroke in 2001, so we were well-prepared and knew that we were on "golden time" with Mum these past ten years and more. She leaves behind an incredible legacy of marvelous books and a huge legion of fans. She won practically every major award in available to authors of science fiction and fantasy, including both Hugo and Nebula Awards, the American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards award for Lifetime Literary achievement in Young Adult fiction, was an inductee into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and was a SFWA Nebula Grandmaster. She was also a great cook, magnificent mother, doting grandmother, ardent quilter, knitter, bridge player, horsewoman, fencer, actress, singer, and all-around nice person. We are blessed to have known her, just as we are blessed with the knowledge that she has touched so many lives and made such huge changes in them. Mum always said, "Don't just pay back a favor -- pass it on!" In light of that spirit, we ask that, instead of condolences or flowers, that commemorators make a donation to their favorite charity. We know that we haven't lost Mum -- that she has truly passed on her legacy of love and honor to all those who were touched by her -- and that we have only to open one of her books to find her again. Rest well, Mum, you've earned it!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Cover Stories: You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart has shared many Cover Stories in this space--for Undercover and House of Dance, for Nothing But Ghosts and for The Heart is Not a Size. Her latest novel is high in my pile, and it should be in yours too! I dare you to read a Beth Kephart book and not sigh at the beauty of her words. She's truly a poet (check out her blog for proof).

Here's Beth talking about the cover of her new novel, You Are My Only:

"For many months I have wondered just how I would write this cover story. In some ways, I still don’t know quite what to say.

"Should I start with the title, You Are My Only, which sets the mood? And if I start with the title, then aren’t I really starting (or shouldn’t I start) by thanking my agent, Amy Rennert, and her colleague, Robyn Russell, who helped me toward knowing what the title must be during a week of grave uncertainty?

"You Are My Only, then—a title that I was helped toward. Words that struck me once, and strike me again today, as singular and brave.

"To create the image, we turned, of course, to Neil Swaab, who had designed the gorgeous cover for Dangerous Neighbors [read that Cover Story on bn.com], and who seems to get books the moment he reads them—seems to settle on that symbol or scene that obsessed the writer or, in this case, kept the writer going. Both of my protagonists—Sophie and Emmy—are caught inside worlds, trapped in places they should not be. Both look out through windows on people and places just out of reach. What might symbolize that? What single image might tell the story of two young women separated by time and place and hurt?"

Read the rest of Beth's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cover Stories: Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

Hi, look at that cover. The title alone intrigued me enough to want to red Jen Violi's debut, but that cover? I love it!

Jen's here to share the Cover Story:

"I did indeed have my own cover idea, and revealing that will also reveal why I’m a writer and not a designer.

"So, when I was little, my parents had quite a record collection, and I loved listening to so many of them, from The King and I soundtrack to Vicki Carr or Frank Sinatra or, my absolute favorite: Aunt Carmela’s Italian Favorites. So many gems on there, my favorites from Lou Monte. And the cover, priceless. Which of course I have to show you here. Please note the fabulousness of Aunt Carmela, right.

"Believe it or not, as I was writing Putting Makeup on Dead People, I had a distinct vision for the cover to feature Aunt Carmela. As an enlivened corpse. Basically, my vision involved Aunt Carmela, sitting much like she is on the chaise lounge on the album cover, but instead, on a coroner’s metal slab, with a white sheet draped over her body, sitting up and grinning out at us. Why, one might wonder, would I think that was a good idea?"

Read the rest of Jen's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Waking Nightmares by Christopher Golden

Thursday, November 17, 2011

rgz Newsflash: Congratulations, Thanhha!

The 2011 National Book Award Winners
Inside Out & Back Again
Young People's Literature 
Inside Out & Back Again

(Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Book Bag
Every You, Every Me by David Levithan, photographs by Jonathan Farmer
It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder
Scott Pilgrim, Volume #5: Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Friday, November 11, 2011

rgz Seattle HOST: Stephanie Guerra and Stages on Pages!

Here's another entry from our Seattle HOST, Stephanie Guerra! Her debut young adult novel, TORN, will be published by Marshall Cavendish in spring of 2012.

A couple of nights ago, I visited Secret Garden Books to see Stages on Pages, a book tour comprised of YA authors who hail from various backgrounds in the performing arts. The tour will stop at cities along both coasts, with changes in the author line-up depending on location. For more information on who will be where and when, go here.

The gathering at Secret Garden opened with a gorgeous violin performance by Jessica Martinez, and moved quickly to author readings. It was a treat to hear the authors (pictured below) read their own work, and I got a good sense of each of their strengths.

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe is a stunning novel in verse about Sara, a ballerina struggling with the intense pressures of her art. Kehoe’s writing is lyrical and elegant, with strong images that resonate with emotional truth. This is verse at its most accessible, meant for lovers of poetry and prose alike.

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez is the story of Carmen, a teenage violin prodigy who falls in love with her greatest competitor. Martinez is a master wordsmith. Her descriptions are simple but evocative, and I felt the depth and complexity of Carmen’s relationship to music in the first few pages of the book.

Amplified by Tara Kelly has got me excited about voice. Kelly has a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, and she’s nailed the voice of a young female guitarist who pursues a future with a rock band instead of going to college. When she finished the reading, I was convinced I’d heard the living character speak to me.

Second Fiddle by Roseanne Parry is set in Berlin just before the Wall came down. It has a blockbuster plot and a great hook: When thirteen-year-old Jody and her friends witness the attempted murder of a Soviet officer, they save his life and attempt to protect him by disguising him as their music instructor.

Adios Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft is one of those books that grabs you by the throat and gives you a dose of gritty truth. Unflinching and honest, it is the story of a talented boy wrestling with an accomplished twin, his own musical future, and an instructor he’d rather not have. The voice is pure teen male: curses, crudity, and general bravado concealing a good heart and passion for music.

Jewel and the Key by Louise Spiegler is a jewel-box of a book, with lovely descriptions of old-time theater. In this historical fantasy, a time travel device shuttles the heroine between 1917 and the present. In both periods, she is drawn to Seattle’s grand Jewel Theater, where she must come to terms with the realities of war, past and present.

The Beckoning of Lovely Film

Amy Krause Rosenthal describes herself as "a person who likes to make things." She is an author, a filmmaker, and more. She also brings people together - literally - with her work. Here's the trailer for her feature film, The Beckoning of Lovely 11/11/11, and a little more about the project in her own words:

The Beckoning of Lovely began with a spontaneous public gathering on 08/08/08 at "The Bean" sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park. 2 subsequent videos took place on 09/09/09 and 10/10/10... On November 11th, 2011 the feature film The Beckoning of Lovely 11/11/11 will be released and made globally available for viewing on YouTube... This final film — like the whole project itself — is interactive and rooted in human connection.

Watch the full-length film and learn more about the project at http://www.TheBeckoningOfLovely.com

Check out the FAQ at Google Docs and click through the slideshow to watch all of the trailers and check out the movie poster!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

rgz Shout Out: Charmed by Chris Van Allsburg

What a wonderful time with Chris Van Allsburg! He's such a dear. Divas Martha, Dia, Justina, and I met at The Bookstore Bar in Seattle and talked all things Harris Burdick. Imagine 13 authors writing short stories to drawings you created 25 years prior: M.T. Anderson, Stephen King, Kate Dicamillo, and our own Cory Doctorow included.

The Chroinicles of Harris Burdick
Based on the picture book the Mysteries of Harris BurdickThe Chronicles of Harris Burdick elaborates on the beloved illustrations so mysteriously left behind by Harris long ago.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
Personally, Sherman Alexis' short story startled me most. Where did it come from, Sherman? Shivery brilliance!

Chatting with Chris, we learned that the imagery has never looked better. The darks and lights are deeper and more vibrant due to the paper in this edition.

We wish Chris the best as he continues his tour. Safe travels and joy in your new studio, Chris. May the light be glorious as you work on your next book. We'll be waiting!

Oh, and be sure to check out the story writing contest at Chris' blog!

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
by Chris Van Allsburg and 13 contributors
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

rgz Newsflash: Arthur A. Levine

A definite perk to the business is getting to hang out with editors and authors made of awesome. Last night I attended Plot for Tots orchestrated by former rgz team member, Sara Easterly. Imagine a toddler mosh pit, an amazing musician, and authors reading board and picture books with proceeds going to charity Page Ahead. Sweet!

What an honor to be included in the awesome lineup along with one of the industry's most charming editor/authors, Arthur A. Levine. Are those not the cutest glasses he wears?

While I read Hug Hug! and Bedtime Kiss for Little Fish, he read Monday is One Day. Watch for my review of his picture book on Friday at readertotz!

Do I need say, here is the U.S. editor for the Harry Potter series? *squeeeeeee* Ah, good times!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stronger Stories

Lorie Ann Grover and I have often included songs by Kelly Clarkson on our rgz playlists. We're both really digging Kelly's new album, Stronger.

While listening to the album, I dropped by Kelly's website and discovered this awesome forum for Stronger Stories, which simply asks: "What has made you stronger?" and encourages people to share their stories of strength.

We here at rgz encourage you to do the same, be it here at this blog, there at Stronger Stories, in an important in-person discussion with your family or friends, or simply in your personal diary or journal. You are all strong, each and every one of you reading this blog, and we salute your strength.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cover Stories: Tantalize, Kieren’s Story

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a huge supporter of the YA writing community who truly rocks. I recently wrote a guest post for her awesome blog, Cynsations, about writing "true" vs. "likeable" characters. She also happens to be the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of the Tantalize series: ETERNAL, TANTALIZE, and BLESSED, Gothic fantasies from Candlewick. TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY, illustrated by Ming Doyle, is a graphic edition in which Cynthia re-envisions her dark fantasy through Wolfish eyes. How cool is that?

Here's Cynthia with the Cover Story for  TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY:

"I anticipated that the cover would nod overtly to Kieren’s identity as a human werewolf-hybrid. We often see this with books that involve a shape-shifter protagonist. I tend to prefer those in which it’s more subtle, like Vivian’s wolf shadow on the original cover of Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate (right).

"Usually in shifter books, the transformation is a powerful moment in the story, and as a reader I prefer to experience that in my imagination rather than to be offered a visual up front. However, in my story, because Kieren is a hybrid (and has some issues with that), he doesn’t shapeshift as easily or completely as, say, his mother who has no known homo sapiens heritage.

"I was wary of the idea that the cover might suggest that Kieren would go full Wolf and managing that more delineated duality would be the book’s focus. The story is more of a murder mystery with strong romantic elements than a straight-up creature feature, though certainly creatures abound.

"My first thought when I saw the cover was, He’s a boy. Definitely a boy..."

Read the rest of Cynthia's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

PS-Read the original Cover Stories for Eternal and Blessed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cover Stories: Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

Nancy Werlin has some decidedly gorgeous covers. Her hardcover for Extraordinary enchanted me at first glance, and the paperback is striking, too. Nancy's here to tell the tale of these two covers:

"Previously, on the hardcover of Extraordinary . . .

"The cover story for the paperback U.S. edition of Extraordinary begins with a quick look back at the book’s hardback cover story.

"The final cover (left) depicted a scene from the book: a red-haired girl – my main character, Phoebe – running in high heels into a lushly green wood. There were many exclamations about how pretty it was. It also matched the cover for my previous novel, Impossible. I liked it!

"But I concluded that cover story by saying, “No matter how beautiful and loved a cover may be, the jury on it remains uncommitted until the book has been in the world for a while … the author hopes that the cover will be magical, attracting all the right readers, and as few as possible of the wrong ones, to what really matters: what’s inside the cover.

"Suddenly, totally different paperback cover(s)!

"Months later, my publisher, Penguin/Puffin, sent me an email with their new concept for the paperback covers. Yes, covers, plural. When you open the front cover, you see a two-page spread called the 'step-back cover.” Look at the right side of the front cover and you’ll see the hint of a second set of lips, and another nose.

"I was surprised. The folks at Puffin hadn’t told me they were rethinking things for the paperback. The email said: 'We all think that these images really capture the two girls (and the dynamic between them) perfectly.'

"I opened the attachments in terror..."

Read the rest of Nancy's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.